The Sandwich American Legion Post 188, which has helped countless veterans and children over the decades, has been deeply wounded by the coronavirus and is itself in need of help.
The landmark post, located on Main Street, was forced to close its doors for the statewide lockdown in March and, as a result, lost its only revenue stream.
Gone are the weekly bingo games, which “are a big moneymaker for us,” the hall rentals and the downstairs lounge, said Post Commander Rob Dinan in a telephone interview this week.
“I’m not a big one for begging for money, but we could really use some help. It would be a shame to see the post close because of the situation,” he said.
The post has launched a fundraising campaign via the GoFundMe website and is hoping to raise $50,000 in the next few weeks. That amount will pay the back bills for the mortgage on the building, as well as provide a small cushion until everything reopens, Cmdr. Dinan said.
“We are definitely a nonprofit and not looking to make money. We are looking for just enough to keep the doors open and support the programs for vets and kids,” he said.
Treasurer Richard Nycz said the post had raised about $13,000 since launching its fundraising effort. The bulk of those donations came from members, with about $3,000 coming from GoFundMe.
“Without help the revenue is just not going to be there,” Mr. Nycz said. “We realize that many people may be in financial straits, but we are asking the community to donate whatever it can so that our veterans’ post can survive.”
In September the post is scheduled to celebrate 101 years of existence and service to Sandwich. It has been at its current location since 1972 when it moved from the former Jarvesville School on Dewey Avenue.
The current building is actually three buildings—former nurses’ barracks that were moved from the military base by post members, the commander said.
Until construction on the post was completed in 1974, members would meet every Sunday with hammers in hand to hold their meetings in the parking lot and work on the building, according to the post’s brochure.
The post is a busy one, with activities and events throughout the year.
Every year but this one, Post 188 has sponsored high school juniors to attend Boys/Girls State at Stonehill College for a week in June. Last year, the post sponsored 21 students, at a cost of $350 per student, from Upper Cape high schools.
Begun by the American Legion in 1935, the Boys/Girls State program helps select students gain an understanding of the federal government’s structure and operation and is often a springboard to careers in public service.
The program’s statewide graduates have become admirals, colonels, governors and state representatives and senators, the program director has said.
Post 188’s honor guard fires a 21-gun salute at veterans’ funerals, inserts the shells into folded American flags and gives them to the next of kin.
The post also sponsors the annual Memorial Day Parade that includes a march from the former Henry T. Wing School to the newly named Eaton Memorial Veterans Square, then on to the library, and to James Square.
It was canceled this year by the coronavirus.
Also in honor of Memorial Day, the Post 188 lawn is filled with flags. The post’s honor guard puts flags on the 800 graves of the town’s military veterans, and the Ladies Auxiliary sells poppies at the two Stop & Shop stores in town and the two post offices.
On Flag Day, Post 188 conducts a flag-burning ceremony and encourages the public to attend. All year long, Legion members collect flags that are torn, tattered, faded or otherwise in no condition to be flown, and they retire these flags “with honor.”
Post 188 also has a function room, pavilion and commercial kitchen available to rent for functions and events.
Money raised at all of its activities and fundraisers goes almost exclusively to support legion programs and student scholarships.
The post is hoping to open its backyard barbecue area as soon as the governor gives the go-ahead, but the proceeds from those events will not be enough to keep the post afloat, the commander said.
“It’s not just us. Posts across the state are worried about closing. We are one of the most active posts in the area, and we are the only American Legion post on the Cape that has its own building. I sure hope we can keep it open,” he said.